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CFN Analysis - Signing Day 2011
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney
Posted Feb 3, 2011

Whatever Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is selling, everyone seems to be buying as he brought in a tremendous haul. As good as the Tigers might have been on Wednesday, they're still the middle of the pack when it comes to what the SEC keeps on doing. The CFNers weigh in with their first thoughts on Signing Day 2011.

CFN Analysis   

Signing Day 2011

CFN Top Prospects for 2011
- No. 1 to 50 | No. 51 to 100 | No. 101 to 150
- No. 151 to 200No. 201 to 250 | No. 251 to 300
- Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers
- Tight Ends | Off. Tackles | Guards & Centers 
- Def. Ends | Def. Tackles | Linebackers | Corners | Safeties 
- 2009 CFN Top 150 | 2010 CFN Top 200

2011 Lists of New Recruits
- ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | C-USA | Ind.
- MAC | M-West | Pac 12 | SEC  | Sun Belt | WAC 

By Pete Fiutak

Alright, SEC, I’m calling you out.

After sitting through another eight-hour Signing Day infomercial about why the SEC is so superior to everyone else, it’s time for the best league in college football to come down from its little talent party and finally separate itself from everyone else by 74 miles.

The SEC is obviously great, but with the talent the league gets year in and year out, it should be better, and if it's not, it might be time to wonder if all that goes into recruiting actually hurts the finished product a little bit.

All 12 SEC teams, and that includes Vanderbilt, finished in the Scout top 45 recruiting rankings. Let that sink in for a moment. EVERY TEAM is in the top 45. Imagine if Duke, or Indiana, or Washington State, or Iowa State could crack the upper-echelon … along with every other team in their respective conferences. The Big Ten would be going nutso if it had the recruiting success the SEC just had. The talent gap between the SEC and every other conference is getting to a frightening level, and now it has to translate to the field from top to bottom and not just with the one or three jaw-dropping good teams whose turn it is this year.

Oh sure, the SEC won another national title, took home another Heisman, and looked great in key games on New Year’s Day, but there’s no excuse for any more Georgia losses to UCF. There’s no rationale for Kentucky to lose to Pitt, for South Carolina to lose to Florida State, or for Auburn to need a late field goal to beat Oregon. It’s time for the SEC to take things to a whole other level.

There’s no excuse for the East to be as bad as it was last year, and there’s no such thing as a rebuilding year at places like Alabama, Ole Miss, or Tennessee. Not when ten of the Scout Top 25 recruiting classes of 2009 belonged to the SEC, and not when year after year after year the talent keeps stockpiling up.

Going forward, the questions have to keep being asked of the SEC after so many great recruiting classes. Is there a sense of entitlement among the top players? Why is it that Wisconsin is outside the velvet rope, yet can be as good as it is? How can Boise State and TCU be so consistently great without the top-shelf, SEC talent? Does the SEC need fewer primma donnas and more try-hards who didn't get their butts kissed since eighth grade?

It’s almost as some SEC programs are so busy trying to beat each other in the recruiting wars that they sometimes forget how it's all supposed to translate to the field. There’s something inherently wrong with the mindset that Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen had on Wednesday as he and his staff were already working for the 2012 Signing Day when the ink wasn’t dry on the signatures they just received, but that's what they have to do to keep up the pace.

Everyone works hard to recruit, and it’s a true 365-day-a-year process, but recruiting isn’t nearly as crazy in other conferences and it’s not as much of a fight. Do SEC coaches have to spend so much energy dealing with recruiting that they’re fried when it’s time to actually coach? Unless the SEC can harness all the amassed talent and do even more with it, it might be time for someone in the conference to wonder if this is all worth it.

SEC, you have the rich TV deal. You have everyone kissing your butt. You have the talent oozing out of every team from top to bottom. So that’s it. No more 2010s. Be better. Play up to your talent level.

By Richard Cirminiello 

Dabo Swinney’s job at Clemson got a little easier with Wednesday’s impressive recruiting haul. Or tougher, depending on how you size up the situation.

Swinney and his staff delivered one of the biggest Signing Day surprises, ranking among the nation’s top classes in terms of depth and overall quality. Although you expect the Tigers to attract gifted players each February, getting LB Stephone Anthony from North Carolina and RB Mike Bellamy, WR Sammy Watkins, and LB Tony Steward out of Florida is a red-letter day. All four are considered can’t-miss prospects, headlining a solid mix of recruits who’ll feed both sides of the ball for the next four or five years. Things are looking up in Death Valley, and not a moment too soon. With enough returning starters to vie for an ACC title, Clemson went 6-7 in 2010, losing to middling South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. In these parts, that’s never acceptable, but it’ll be especially true after the program made a national splash with a star-studded recruiting class.

There’s a price tag that comes with landing a handful of blue-chip athletes, namely ramped-up expectations. If you have some of the best ingredients, you better be prepared to produce an equivalent final product. Swinney helped put the program on better footing today, but also may have put a bigger target on his own chest. All of that high school talent he amassed could be someone else’s responsibility in another year or two if the coach can’t turn things around. In a strange twist, by having one of the top 10 classes, Swinney may have made the Clemson job more appetizing for his successor.

By Matt Zemek

Now that the big recruiting push is over, the real storylines in college football can develop. We’ve just seen how coaches worked the trail over the past several weeks; now, can they teach the players they just brought to campus?

Will Mark Richt be able to generate immediate and substantial production from his highly-lauded class? Will Charlie Strong begin to rise to the top of the Big East, one year before TCU’s arrival? Will Jeff Tedford take a big-time recruiting haul and convert it into the big season he so desperately needs in Berkeley? Will Jimbo Fisher, the prime beneficiary of the coaching instability at Florida and Miami, begin to deliver 11-win seasons on a regular basis at Florida State after maxing out in the realm of player acquisitions? Will a reconstituted yet formidable Auburn program not miss a beat despite the loss of Cam Newton, a rare and not-fully-replaceable college football legend? Will Lane Kiffin actually produce something more than a 7-6 or 8-5 season after doing a tremendous job of selling the program despite another year of (for the program) unmerited postseason prohibition? Will Mack Brown, now that he’s done his typical selling-snow-to-Eskimos thing, return to top-tier prosperity once again with a new pair of coordinators and no coach-in-waiting? These are the questions that will linger throughout the college football community in the coming months.

It’s richly satisfying to know that in the eternal tug of war between talent and coaching, which can mask deficiencies on one side of the ledger or another, this National Signing Day has given pigskin pundits a bevy of case studies that will provide a welcome degree of clarity to the realm of football analysis. It will do so by unmasking both the achievers and underachievers in college football. Several high-profile teams and coaching staffs will not be able to evade the truth any longer when this next season begins; they’ll have to come to terms with the fact that they’ve brought in high-grade talent during this recruiting period and must now deliver the goods on gamedays. A major theme of the 2011 season, seven months before it starts, will center around the ability (or lack thereof) of a number of instantly recognizable coaches – especially entrenched coaches who are losing popularity with their fan bases – to turn talent into results.

Let the real games begin.

By: Barrett Sallee

What does a sub-.500 record, a history of underperforming and a coach on the hot seat get you on National Signing Day? If you’re Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers, it gets you a pretty darn good recruiting class.

Swinney and the Tigers punctuated a solid recruiting season with one of the best single-day hauls in the nation on Wednesday, bringing in five-star linebacker Stephone Anthony, four-star linebacker Tony Steward and jumping squarely in the mix for defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect. Clowney will wait until Valentine’s Day to make his decision, and if he signs on with the Tigers, it's yeeeeeesh time for the rest of the ACC.

In addition to beefing up the defense, Clemson racked up quite a few offensive weapons for new offensive coordinator Chad Morris. Wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Charone Peake, along with running back Mike Bellamy will all provide Morris options to work with, as he tries to turn around an offense that ranked 88th in the country last season.

The Tigers currently rank 11th in the recruiting rankings, and that number could only increase based on what Clowney decides to do. Those are uncharted waters for Clemson, especially considering that the Tigers suffered through their first losing season in 12 years and had to deal with major coaching changes in the offseason. It marks only the second time in the last 10 years that Clemson has cracked the top 15 in’s rankings.

Georgia will get a lot of pub for coming out of nowhere to haul in a stellar class in 2011, but Clemson did pretty much the same thing. In the mediocre ACC, a few key additions could immediately vault any team into conference contention, which is exactly where Clemson should be thanks to this class. If the Tigers don’t get back into contention next year…well…then Rich Rodriguez will have plenty of weapons on the roster when he takes over for Swinney in 2012.

By: Russ Mitchell

So much for taking a step backward.

Moments after the initial glow of its national championship victory began to fade, Auburn University faced a rather daunting overhaul of its offensive line. Four of its five starters were walking away on top, and head man Gene Chizik identified the position as a top priority heading into the final stretch of recruiting season.

Feel free to check that one off the list.

In one of the bigger surprises of Signing Day, the nation’s top ranked offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio announced he would become an Auburn Tiger. He just didn’t put a timeline on it. Kouandjio decided to hold off on faxing in his Letter of Intent, though we’ll take the young man at his word (yes, perhaps not our first mistake).

At 6’7”, 325 lbs, Kouandjio has a ton of upside – a scary prospect given his already significant aptitude.

Chizek and crew then went out to the desert to steal from the University of Texas another top five tackle in Arizona’s Christian Westerman. Exceptionally strong, Westerman is known first as a run dominating blocker, not shy about showing a bit of a mean streak.

Already cracking books on campus is arguably the nation’s best center prospect in Reese Dismukes from Spanish Fork, Alabama. Throw into that mix one of the nation’s top five guards in 6’5”, 300 lb Greg Robinson from Thibodaux, Louisiana to go with another guard from Georgia (Thomas O'Reilly), and the Tigers from the Plains have assembled a starting line for the ages.

Contingent to each of them living up to expectations, of course – which, as all of us knows, is hardly a given. Recruiting is as much an art as a science, and rating recruits an even more uncertain assignment.

Yet what might stand out as even more impressive than the quality of these recruits assembled are their zip codes: Maryland, Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana and Georgia. A very impressive showing indeed.

Now let’s see what happens in the coming days with new CBS soap, As the Kouandjio Turns.